Building muscle doesn’t just “happen.” You must force growth by using this proven technique that will add size to any stalled workout program.
Sure they are exciting — in theory — but learning a new skill or practicing a new habit can be incredibly frustrating. With time, practice, and lots of effort, you see rapid improvements and rewards for your relentlessness. When it comes to building muscle, oftentimes the opposite is true. When first start training you seem to gain size like you were born to be a bodybuilder, or you drop fat as if those 4-week magazine promises are actually a reality. Then a funny thing happens: you become better at lifting and yet most of the time the progress slows down. Sometimes almost completely. Sure, you add some weight to your lifts or learn some new exercises, but you end up feeling like your body is muscle-resistant.
In the most basic sense, you’re completely normal. Plateau is a natural part of body transformation. At a higher level, you’re digging your own grave by ignoring a few simple rules. You see, you need to add in specialization that targets your weak points and gives them no choice but to change into what you desire. To bust past your plateau and start gaining muscle fast, you usually have to stop following the same traditional methods and become more innovative with your workouts. Remember, muscle growth is primarily the result of three factors: muscle tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage. That means just adding weight is not enough. You need to challenge your muscles in ways that force them to grow. Having a hard time gaining muscle or jumpstarting a lack of progress? Good, you’re not alone. But with a specialized approach, as pointed out below by muscle-building specialist Bryan Krahn, you can jumpstart almost any stagnant plan.
Adding Muscle: The New Rules of Specialization for Size
In the simplest sense, you want gains. New muscle. More size. Something you can look at in the mirror and think, “Awesome, my body changed.” To make that happen, select a body part and then make it a focus for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Follow the rules below, and you will see the type of changes you want, but be forewarned: it will require quite a bit of extra effort.
- Design: Yes, there is a time and place for body part training. One body part or muscle group (chest, back, legs, arms, etc) at a time.
- Sets: 40-50 sets per week
- Frequency: 2-4 sessions per week. Spreading the weekly volume over more training days typically works better.
- Rep range: All of them! 4-6, 8-15, 12-25. Even sets of 50. The only range to avoid would be sets of 3 or less, especially if frequency is on the high end. Save that for a dedicated functional hypertrophy phase.
- Exercises: All of them. Compound lifts are great but isolation work earns its stripes during a specialization phase. Also include both unilateral and bilateral movements.
The Muscle-Building Difference
Variety is a strong hypertrophy driver, so during specialization phases I like to program exercises that I haven’t used consistently in two years at least. This doesn’t mean making up silly exercises – just switching from wide-grip barbell curls to medium grip. Buy Bill Pearl’s book The Keys to the Inner Universe. You’ll find plenty of options
If your workout just consists of the, “same old, same old” you probably won’t notice much difference, although the added frequency will probably cause a spark. This is about creativity that makes your muscles feel alive. Add in techniques like mid-rep pauses, peak contractions, accentuated stretches, drop sets, super sets, and compound sets. Just not all in the same workout. More is more…up to a certain point. So take a technique or two, and then add it to your workout. Oh yeah, and one of thing: Avoid techniques like forced reps or negative reps.
But What About The Other Body Parts?
Think maintenance. Use full body workouts with basic, compound exercises performed with perfect technique while leaving a few “reps in the hole.” This will provide a solid training effect and make you feel like you’re actually doing something worthwhile. Which you are — reinforcing great technique.
Use this approach for 4-6 weeks max. You need to reduce volume to allow supercompensation to occur. It’s also wise to return to more “normal” training before embarking on another specialization phase.
- 4-6 week arm-specialization
- 1-2 week unloading (reduce your volume)
- 4-8 week “normal” training
- 4-6 week leg specialization
Note: Never do back-to-back specialization phases for the same muscle group. It doesn’t work.
What does this look like? Read more about Krahn’s specific strategies, and understand why you’re too boring to build muscle. It addresses many of the common issues of stalled progress, and provides a path to make sure you keep growing.